Part of the USA Today Network

Did you know? 150 Civil War facts about York County, Pa.: Part 2


16. The York firm of Billmeyer & Small manufactured railcars during the middle of the 19th century. A good chunk of their output was for the war effort. Shown above is the Billmeyer mansion on E. Market Street. It was constructed in early 1863; a large portion of Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon’s Confederate brigade marched past the lovely Italianate structure on Sunday morning, June 28, 1863, en route to Wrightsville.

17. The 87th Pennsylvania Infantry was raised in Adams and York County in the late summer / early autumn of 1861. It was among the first regiments in this region to require an enlistment commitment of three years. Its first commander was 52-year-old Colonel George Hay, a prominent chair, cabinet, and coffin maker in downtown York who had led the York Rifles, a pre-war local militia company.

18. Only a handful of soldiers with York County origins or ties served at the Battle of Gettysburg. Most of these served in the 43rd Pennsylvania, an artillery battery also known as the 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery. At least one man, George Rudisill, left a written account of the battle and his unit’s participation.

19. The railroad from Gettysburg began at the train station on Carlisle Street and then ran east through New Oxford and Hanover on to Hanover Junction in south-central York County. Some critics deemed it as one of the worst stretches of track in the country — bumpy, uneven, and rough.

20. Dillsburg resident Matthew Quay won the Medal of Honor at Fredericksburg despite technically being a civilian during the battle. His citation reads: “Although out of service, he voluntarily resumed duty on the eve of battle and took a conspicuous part in the charge on the heights.”


21. Historian and author Dr. Mark Snell, a York native, teaches at the George Tyler Moore Civil War institute at Shepherd University in West Virginia. According to his calculations, the average enlisted man from York County was 23.9 years old and was worth $343 (about a half-year’s income). Officers on the other hand were 31 years old with an income of $1760.

22. More than 11,000 wounded soldiers (almost 80% Union) came through Hanover Junction and its interchange of the Northern Central Railway (which ran north-south through York) and the Hanover Branch Railroad (which in combination with the Gettysburg Railroad ran west to Gettysburg). About 2,000 received treatment in York.

23. Johnson Kelly Duncan was born and raised in the war. Of the hundreds of thousands of people who have hailed from or lived in York County over the past 150 years, he holds a unique claim — the Chanceford Township native was a general in the army of the Confederate States of America! He led the defenses of two key forts near New Orleans. In December 1862 Duncan died of a malarial disease in Tennessee. He was only 36 years old.

25. The northernmost skirmish in the Civil War in York County was on June 27, 1863, when the retreating 26th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, fresh off an embarrassing loss to Jubal Early, held their position against elements of Jenkins’ Confederate brigade.

26. During the Confederate occupation of York in late June1863, Jubal Early’s Rebels set their attention to the railroad infrastructure. They set fire to 34 four-wheel coal cars and to five 8-wheel house cars. Luckily, they did not torch the major buildings including the brand new station house because of concerns that the fire would spread to the town. The Confederates knew of Robert E. Lee’s Orders No. 72, which banned deliberate damage to non-military targets. Most obeyed the orders.

27. According to railroad historian Ivan Frantz, Jr., during the Gettysburg Campaign the Rebels damaged or totally destroyed 12 bridges between Hanover Junction and Goldsboro on the NCR, and all 19 bridges on the Wrightsville Branch.

28. The paper mill in Spring Grove (then known as Spring Forge) used straw and rags as pulp to make paper. Rags came into short supply because of their need in the field hospitals following the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. A group of rag collectors headed over the battlefield and began digging up the fresh graves of fallen soldiers. Military officials caught and arrested them, and sentenced them to bury or burn dead horses and mules. The thieves included the manager of the mill; he perished from disease contracted from the unsanitary punishment. In November 1863, the defunct mill was sold at sheriff’s auction to young papermaker P. H. Glatfelter.

29. Patients from the York U.S. Army Hospital helped defend the covered bridge at Wrightsville in late June 1863 when John B. Gordon’s Confederate soldiers attempted to seize the span to cross the Susquehanna to enter Lancaster County. Earlier in the month the so-called “York Invalids” had traveled by train to Scotland, Pa., to defend a bridge there on the Cumberland Valley Railroad.

30. Mary Cadwell Fisher, the wife of York’s Judge Robert Fisher, helped spearhead efforts early in the war to organize the women of the town to minister to the ill and wounded soldiers being treated in local homes. Later this same committee supervised similar activities to comfort and assist patients in the U.S. Army Hospital.

Watch the Cannonball blog for future additions to this list! Here’s a link to Part 1.